Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have emerged as a promising model organism to study development, toxicology, pharmacology, and neuroscience, among other areas. Despite the increasing number of studies using zebrafish, behavioral studies with this species are still elementary when compared to rodents. The aim of this study was to develop a model of unpredictable chronic stress (UCS) in zebrafish. We evaluated the effects of UCS protocol during 7 or 14days on behavioral and physiological parameters. The effects of stress were evaluated in relation to anxiety and exploratory behavior, memory, expression of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) and glucocorticoid receptor (GR), and cortisol levels. As expected, UCS protocol increased the anxiety levels, impaired cognitive function, and increased CRF while decreased GR expression. Moreover, zebrafish submitted to 7 or 14days of UCS protocol presented increased cortisol levels. The protocol developed here is a complementary model for studying the neurobiology and the effects of chronic stress in behavioral and physiological parameters. In addition, this protocol is less time consuming than standard rodent models commonly used to study chronic stress. These results confirm UCS in zebrafish as an adequate model to preclinical studies of stress, although further studies are warranted to determine its predictive validity.
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